A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Real vs. imagined

Jul 25, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The Colorado killings revive our human longing to understand the unfathomable

Again an act of mindless cruelty and brutality has come closer to our Wyoming homes than we would ever expect, this time at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

When the gunman with a gas mask who had just left his booby-trapped apartment mowed down more than 60 audience members at the midnight premiere of the new "Batman" movie in Aurora last week, killing a dozen of them, we human beings immediately started looking for answers.

The first of the funerals for the dead began Wednesday. Each one that follows will toll the somber bell again.

Early on, any number of news stories about the massacre contained the sentence "Police are unclear on the motive for the shootings."

Of course they are "unclear" on a motive, because there can be no motive to even approach justification or explanation for such an act.

Yet still we search, hoping that our powers of reason and understanding can help us comprehend something beyond reason that can never be understood. This search is a longing in us, but the only "understanding" is the knowledge that the best we'll be able to manage is learning to live with it.

The flip side of this is the troubling realization that there are people who will do these things, and that they are human beings, as are we.

News reports Tuesday showed Christian Bale, who stars as Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises," paying visits to some of the survivors of the shooting in Denver-area hospitals. His was the movie on screen when the murderer came inside.

Bale gave handshakes, hugs, smiles and autographs. It was the best he could do, and it was heartfelt.

The movie star said he was glad to do what he could to help, but that he felt inadequate. Anyone would. For in the real world, away from the big screen at the cineplex adjacent to the shopping mall, only half of the movie adventure actually exists.

While the audience was watching a projection of the superhero, the villain was the real thing. There was a masked man in the theater that night, but it wasn't the caped crusader. It was the villain, the monster. Right there in awful, living, dying color.

Perhaps this gets closer to the true nature of aforementioned human longing to understand. The question might not be "why did he do it?" so much as it is "Why can something so unfathomable as Aurora gunman James Holmes exist right before our eyes, yet the equally improbable super being that would protect us from him is something we can only imagine?"

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